June 21, 2024

How Germany should deal with the AfD: political scientist Christian Stecker warns

Ein deutschlandweit bekannter Neonazi steht in der Stichwahl um einen Landratsposten in Südthüringen, bei den bevorstehenden Landtagswahlen in Ostdeutschland könnte die AfD stärkste Kraft werden – und die neue Partei von Sahra Wagenknecht hat gute Chancen, in gleich mehrere Parlamente einzuziehen.

Unter diesen Umständen könnte es den traditionellen Parteien schwerfallen, Regierungsbündnisse zu bilden – so sieht es auch Christian Stecker, Direktor des Instituts für Politikwissenschaft der TU Darmstadt. „Wir müssen Mehrheiten für Demokratie erringen“, forderte er am Mittwoch in der Veranstaltung „Wissenschaft im Dialog“, die von der Polytechnischen Gesellschaft, dem Kunstgewerbeverein und der F.A.Z.-Vorteilswelt organisiert wird.

“The AfD must be dried up using democratic means,” Stecker said in an interview with FAZ editor Sascha Zuski. Even if there is no “blue wave” in the local elections in Thuringia, one should expect the AfD to reach 30% in the state elections in Thuringia and Saxony – a difficult situation given the “astonishing extremism” of this party. . Scandals such as suspected espionage against one of the AfD’s top candidates for the European elections, Maximilian Krah, or the “re-immigration” meeting in Potsdam, have done less damage to the AfD than such incidents would have done to other parties.

“Power sharing leads to party stability”

But if the AfD does enter the state parliament as the strongest force in September, Stecker no longer believes it is possible to keep it out of power completely: “We tried to build a firewall for a very long time, but it didn’t work.” “Reducing the size of the AfD.” For the professor, it is conceivable that for the CDU in Thuringia, for example, a minority government would seek a majority in its projects on a case-by-case basis. Stecker said it was important not to conclude any direct agreements with the AfD. This is a “dance with the devil,” but there may be no other solution.

The political scientist believes that incorporating the AfD into the government is very dangerous. He believes that “self-inflicted frustration” is unlikely – on the contrary: “power-sharing stabilizes the party.” Even if election promises are expected to be unfulfilled, the AfD can argue for “victimhood.” They claim – like Donald Trump in the United States of America – that a corrupt elite is preventing them from doing their work.

But how do you deal with a party that is partly right-wing? A ban would be the wrong response for Sticker. The length of the process, the unexpected outcome, and the argument that a ban would fit the AfD’s “victim narrative” all weigh against the attempt. It also distracts from the actual mission: “the fight for democracy.”

Democratic parties will have to contend with the AfD’s positions and represent their own platforms consistently. Direct confrontation also helps, as happened in the televised duel between Mario Voigt (CDU) and Björn Höcke (AfD), in April. Through such events, it is possible to access the “closed discourse spaces” of AfD voters.

Immigration policy in particular plays a major role. Through conservative positions, the CDU may be able to win the support of “voters on the right-wing fringes.” Researchers aren’t entirely sure whether this might have the opposite effect. But one thing is indisputable: “The CDU is at the heart of the conflict with the AfD.”

“A perfectly structured year” for BSW

Sahira Wagenknecht’s new party is also critical of immigration. But the Social Action Charter also calls for more social redistribution: “This combination didn’t exist before,” Stecker says. “It is a niche in the political space, and with the sequence of European and state elections, 2024 is a ‘quite a structured year’ for BSW.” Even if the coalition does not have anti-democratic tendencies like the AfD, it still attracts attention with its populist statements. The political world still expects that the party will be able to establish itself in the long term and even become “self-managing” in the East.

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In times of “crisis”, parties like the AfD have a huge advantage, Stecker believes. By offering simple but unrealistic “maximum solutions,” they were able to reach many potential voters. Constitutional remedies and restrictions on “discourse spaces” in social networks can address this. But ultimately, it is up to democratic parties to confront the populists: “Even a defensive democracy cannot stabilize itself alone.”